1

I have two sentences as follows:

  1. We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens.
  2. The worse case is when the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

I want to combine them into a single sentence. I am thinking of the following options but not sure which one is the correct one.

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens; the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

or

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens---the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

or

We don't know what we should do if the worst case -- the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test -- happens.

4
  • 1
    Hard to say, because I can't see the connection between the two parts of the sentence. Jan 1, 2012 at 19:50
  • @BarrieEngland: the second part of the sentence is supposed to be the worst case scenario, at least that's how I get it
    – Frantisek
    Jan 1, 2012 at 19:50
  • 1
    Then a simple ‘and’ between ‘happens’ and ‘the math teacher’ might do it. Jan 1, 2012 at 19:57
  • @BarrieEngland: I think you should post it as an answer, I will be happy to upvote!
    – Frantisek
    Jan 1, 2012 at 19:58

6 Answers 6

2

How about

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens, which is that the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

2
  • "We don't know what we should do if the worst case, which is that the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test, happens." might be OK. Feb 2, 2012 at 17:42
  • @CounterTerrorist: You seem to think that if the second clause doesn't come right after the phrase "worst case", it won't be understood that it's what it refers to. But it will be understood. Feb 2, 2012 at 17:57
7

This seems to fix it to my mind:

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens and the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

3
  • Somewhat ambiguous: it can mean that the worst case is that the math, etc., but can also mean that the worst case is unspecified and two things will occur.
    – msh210
    Jan 1, 2012 at 21:53
  • @msh210: Nah, think of the context. Jan 1, 2012 at 21:54
  • 2
    This. This right here is the answer, @CounterTerrorist.
    – Frantisek
    Jan 2, 2012 at 2:47
3

If, as proposed in a comment to the question, the math's teacher's disallowing the use of calculators is the "worst case" spoken of, and if I wanted to preserve the sentence in the question as closely as possible, then I'd use that:

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens, that the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

or

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens: that the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

2
  • I don't agree with the comma placement at all. Misplaced commas are my worst nightmare in English language.
    – Frantisek
    Jan 1, 2012 at 20:32
  • Oh dear. I don't particularly mind the comma, but the semicolon looks awful to me. Whatever - @Barrie's "and" seems best to me. The possibility of ambiguity seems inconceivable to me, since it presupposes that there must be some other concurrent worst case scenario that the writer hasn't explicitly specified. Asteroid strike during the exam? WW3 starts? The mind boggles. Jan 1, 2012 at 22:55
2

I think that the colon is the best way to make it clear that the lack of calculators is the worst-case scenario, and that a slight recasting of the second half will also make it simpler:

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens: not being allowed to use calculators during the test.

1

I'm also assuming, as suggested in the comments, that the "worst case" implies the need for calculators.

If that is case, I believe your original choice of the semicolon is appropriate, since it is intended to link two closely related independent clauses (which is what you've got).

We don't know what we should do if the worst case happens.

and

The math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test.

-1

I decided to use this one:

We don't know what we should do if the worst case -- the math teacher does not allow us to use calculators in the test -- happens.

2
  • 1
    For those who down vote this answer, please give me the reason. I will consider your advice and change my decision. Feb 2, 2012 at 17:32
  • This is an excellent example of a "broken-backed sentence". I.e. a sentence with a long clause between the subject (the worst case) and the verb (happens). Broken-backed sentences are notoriously difficult to read and understand.
    – Pitarou
    Feb 3, 2012 at 6:29

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